Hello everyone. Welcome back to The Proving Grounds. This week, we have a new Brave One. Brian Augostino's made his presence known by dipping his big toe in the conversations here and there, but now, he's up with a script he sent it. Let's see how he does!
EASE #1 Page 1 of 13
Script by Brian Augostino
PAGE 1 (3 panels)
We are in a top secret U.S. military lab. The room is brightly lit by overhead lights. All walls, counters, and cabinets are white. The room is full of equipment normally found in such an environment. Heart monitoring machine, sink, cabinets, etcÖThere are no windows. We are looking directly at Dr. Harold Dolor. He is 52 years old and of medium build. Medium shot of Dr. Dolor from the waist up. He is wearing white surgical scrubs, clear latex gloves up to the elbow, and a black leather apron like this: http://www.busytrade.com/common/image.php?file=569343. He is holding the top elongated strings of his white surgical mask. His hands and the mask are just below his chin. The bottom strings of the mask are dangling. He is in the process of putting it over his mouth. The mask, scrubs, and apron have dried bloodstains and spatters on them. (Lots of detail here, which is good. Overboard? Probably a little. Not as bad as some Iíve seen, though. I think this can be cut down to less than 100 words, though. Low word count, high impact. Itís a skill as much as a talent.)
The color scheme of pages 1 through 4 is red, white, and black. We are evoking Nazi colors.
1. Date: Monday, November 15, 1965 (Is there any particular reason why the dialogue is in italics? All of it? And if you say that itís there to separate it from the label of whoís speaking, then Iíll tell you that thatís what the colon is for. Donít italicize unless you have to, and even then, in dialogue, Iíd tell you to underline the word instead. Why? Because the letterer is more than likely going to cut and paste all of the text and then start moving it around. If the font they use has italics, then your dialogue will come up as all italics and then theyíll have to fix it. So, donít do it. If youíd done any research at all, youíd see that no one has italics for all of their dialogue. A word here and there, possibly an entire line, but not all the dialogue there is. Now that you know, I donít expect you to make this mistake again.)
2. Dr. Dolor: Your contempt for me is palpable, my dear. Iím not entirely devoid of empathy.
3. Dr. Dolor: Please, let me explain.
Same angle. The mask is now over his mouth. His hands are tying the strings behind his head. Heís still looking directly at us. (Iím thinking this would be a little better as a close-up. Make it very obvious heís looking directly at us, by doing a close-up. This panel, and the previous one.)
4. Dr. Dolor: I possess a modicum of humanity. My colleague at Auschwitz, however, was a monster.
5. Dr. Dolor: If he glimpsed beauty in you, he would remove your eyes as keepsakes. A rarity because he abhorred vermin like yourself.
Same angle. The mask is now over his mouth. His hands are down at his sides. (Here, you should start to pull out. Now, as it is, this page is boring as all hell. Thereís absolutely nothing here to make me want to turn the page, except habit. Iíd probably turn the page, all right. The opposite way. Iíd close the cover and put it back on the shelf. Whatís here to draw me into the story? The guy calmly discussing horrible events? No. There isnít enough dialogue here to truly get me into it, and the static, repetitive panels arenít enough to keep me interestedóespecially when there are only three of them. This page is a failure.)
6. Dr. Dolor: He would, most likely, remove your eyelids so you could watch him disembowel you.
EASE #1 Page 2 of 13 (Page break)
Script by Brian Augostino (This belongs in a header if you wish to have one.)
Dr. Dolor: Breathe easy, Evelyn. Your fate isnít so gruesome. Iím not a monsterÖ. (Whatís this? Where is this supposed to go? Whereís the rest of the page. Oh! I see. Youíre just totally screwed up. Got it. This heading above needs to be in a header. Because you see what it did? Because you put it on the page instead of in a header, it screwed me up as a reader as well as screwed up your dialogue. This line of dialogue doesnít belong hereóit feels forced and like it came out of nowhereóand does nothing at all to help the panel to make it into something interesting as a page-turner. This page is still a failure.)
EASE #1 Page 3 of 13
Script by Brian Augostino
PAGE 2 (1 panel)
Full page splash. Dr. Dolor is still in the center of the panel. The camera has pulled out to reveal more of the lab and part of Evelyn. Just to the left of Dr. Dolor (his right) is a rolling stainless steel surgical cart with syringes, scalpels, and retractors of various sizes laid out neatly. We see Evelynís feet in stirrups. The hem of her white exam gown is around her thighs. The gown has dried bloodstains and spatters on it. The pov is from Evelyn. We are looking at Dr. Dolor between her spread legs. In his left hand, he is holding up a huge, terrifying metal syringe with a long needle. His right hand is at his side. He is looking directly at us. (No. This is padding. Youíve done nothing to earn this splash page, and this splash isnít dramatic in any way in order to hold its own. THIS is a decent way to end the first page. Take the second line thatís just hanging out from the previous panel, put it in this panel, and it would read a lot better. The view is fine. Donít change that. Remember, I said that last panel you should start to pull out. Or, you start with a close-up in the first panel, and then start pulling out to get to this panel. That would work, as well. Pacing, Brian. Good pacing gives instant drama.)
1. Dr. Dolor: Iím a doctor.
EASE #1 Page 4 of 13
Script by Brian Augostino
PAGE 3 (4 panels)
Reverse angle of the splash page. The camera is behind Dolor now. We see his back and we are facing Evelyn. On the right of the exam table (Evelynís left) is a tall cylindrical tank with a monitoring machine and an attached anesthetic mask. We see Evelynís face for the first time. She is 21, hair unkempt, and a look of fear is on her face. Dolor is still holding up the syringe in his left hand. I want the syringe placed so that it covers up Evelynís exposed vagina. Evelyn is just left of center in the widescreen panel. Dolor is right of center. Behind Evelyn are more cabinets, counters, wall charts, etcÖ (Iím not pleased with this setup. First, weíre behind the doctor, but because you donít have any clue as to how to place anything on the page, you have him to the right of center, and the patient to the left of center. So, whatís in the center? Whatís the focus of the panel? Because itís obviously not the doctor or the patient. So, first, tell me what the focus of the panel is, and second, tell me why you didnít state that.)
1. Evelyn: Why are you alone today? Where is your assistant? (Yep. Because I always ask reasonable questions when Iím scared.)
2. Dr. Dolor: Your fear is not without merit. It reminds you of whoís in charge. I was authorized to get results and I wonít fail. You will not fail me, Evelyn.
Camera swings around to the left so we now have a profile view of Evelyn and Dolor. Evelyn is on the left side of this widescreen panel. Dolor is on the right. The wall in the background has two doors to adjoining rooms. (Why? Whatís the purpose of the angle change? I mean, theyíre basically in the same positions as before, but theyíre not performing any actions. Whatís the doctor doing? Just standing around looking menacing and sounding cryptic? Whatís the chick doing? Yep. This panel is effective, alright.)
3. Evelyn: Can I please speak to him?
4. Dr. Dolor: Iíve locked that smug pubescent in the supply closet. I can no longer take his condescension.
5. Evelyn: I want to speak to Joseph. NOW! (I canít tell, but I think I swooned a little reading this exchange. And it wasnít the good kind, either.)
Close up of Dr. Dolor. His face shows absolute rage. (See this panel description right here? This panel description is a lie. MY face shows absolute rage because you just lied. Will someone PLEASE tell me why this is a lie. Jamie? You like noticing things. Tell me why I felt like doing violence to myself just now.)
6. Dr. Dolor: HOW DO YOU KNOW HIS NAME?
7. Dr. Dolor: I DISALLOWED COMMUNICATION BETWEEN YOU TWO! (I threw up a little in my mouth with this line. Good thing I didnít have a lot to eat, or else itíd be all over the keyboard right now.)
EASE #1 Page 5 of 13
Script by Brian Augostino
Medium shot of Evelyn from the waist up. Sheís now completely terrified.
8. Evelyn: Dr. Dolor, pleaseÖ.IÖ.Iím sorry. I feel sick. Can we take the day off from this? (Sheís terrified, sheís already prepared with her feet up in the stirrups, and NOW she wants to start asking questions as well as ask for the day off? This is absolute crap. Absolute. Tell me, where does this make sense? I thought assistants were there to assist. She didnít ask where the assistant was when the doctor was prepping her for whatever procedure, so why ask now? And if you say sheís scared now and is trying to get out of it, Iíll tell you she was scared before, and should have said something earlier. This is craptacular logic. Thatís first. Second, how is this a good place to turn the page? Youíd have been better served ending on the previous panel. Not by much because the previous panel is a lie, but you would have been better served.)
EASE #1 Page 6 of 13
Script by Brian Augostino
Page 4 (5 panels)
Another widescreen profile shot. Dr. Dolor is still at the foot of the exam table. He is on the left side of the panel while Evelyn is on the right. Dolor is placing the syringe back on the cart. Evelynís head is leaning back on the pillow, her eyes shut tight. Her fists are clenched and held just under her chin. (Why? What does this panel do to push the story forward? You already know what Iím going to say. Nothing.)
1. Dr. Dolor: Absolutely not. The Hydra Project will not be delayed! (Nope. Didnít see this line of dialogue coming. Not at all. I probably could have named the project with my eyes closed, too.)
2. Evelyn: Oh God, PLEASE! I wanna see Joseph! (Whereís the crackers? Because there is just WAY too much cheese and whine going on here.)
Same angle. Dr. Dolor is now standing next to the anesthetic tank to Evelynís left. We see him from the back with the tank to his right. His hands are behind his back with his thumbs inside the waistband of his bottom scrubs. The top half of his ass is exposed. (So, weíre looking at the top half of his presumably hairy butt-cheeks. WHY are you torturing us like this? WHEN is the story going to move forward? Itís P4, and nothingís happened except temper tantrums and whining. Padding. And now, we get to look at a hairy ass. Thanks. )
3. 3. Evelyn: What are you doing? (Iím asking myself the same question over this script, Evelyn. No worries. Itís all over in a page.)
Same angle. Dr. Dolorís left thumb remains in the back of his waistband. More of his bare ass is exposed. His right hand is placed on top of the anesthetic tank. (Yep. Because we all needed to see more of his ass in a panel that doesnít do anything.)
4. Dr. Dolor: Iím tired of your
, Evelyn. You mock me and disrespect my dominion. This tank of Halothane will spare you further discomfort.
Close up shot of a wide-eyed, terrified Evelyn. Her left arm is raised in a defensive position. (Raised in horror I can get behind. Defense? Meh.)
5. Evelyn: PleaseÖ.STOP! Iím twelve weeks pregnant. WhatÖWhat are you gonna do to me?? (Have you ever seen Star Wars: Return of the Jedi? Remember when theyíre on Endor, after everyoneís been reunited? Luke is talking to Leia about having to go face Vader, and it gets all extremely melodramatic and sappy as he walks away from her? Remember how godawful that was? This entire panel is as abysmal as that. This panel needs to be excised, burnt, shot, stomped on, ashes stirred, re-burnt, and then forgotten and denied.)
6. Dr. Dolor (OP):
EASE #1 Page 7 of 13
Script by Brian Augostino
Widescreen panel. Reverse the angle so the camera is now on the other side of the exam table. We are facing Dr. Dolor. He is holding the anesthetic mask in his right hand. I want to see some kind of bulge in his leather apron indicating his erection. He is wide-eyed; a caged animal. Evelyn is turned to her right away from him. She is facing the camera. Her eyes are closed in horror and her teeth clenched. (Le sigh.)
7. Dr. Dolor: The same thing your vile husband did to you twelve weeks ago!!! (Really? Four pages just to get to intimations of rape? Youíve wasted 4 pages to get to this? And really, I think the dialogue has numbed my brain. I canít feel my fingers or toes anymore.)
And thatís where Iím going to stop. The next page goes to a new scene, so thereís no need for me to go into a new one, especially when I donít have the fortitude to make it through.
So, letís go through it.
This is the first script submitted here. As such, letís take it from the top and talk about format for a little bit.
Format is the easiest thing when it comes to a comic book script. Format is a hard thing to screw up. Thankfully, you didnít manage to screw the pooch on it too much. Just make your header into a header and not part of the page, as such. Simple fix. If you donít know how to do it, then I suggest one of two things: learn, or donít put it in the script. Those are your only two options. I prefer the former than the latter.
Weíve already talked about the italics, so Iím not going to beat that horse into the ground.
You have no moving panels, thankfully. Instead, you have padding.
These four pages, even with a low panel count, are nothing but padding and bad logic put on display. You could have done this in two pages of six panels each. The low panel count with nothing really happening over four pages is a criminal waste of space and tells me that you need to do more writing in order to learn to tell a story in a snappy pace. And the horror is that your panel count is low. I donít know how you managed to pad with such low counts, but you did it. Iíll call it a lack of actual story and keep it moving from there.
You also have to learn how to construct a panel in order to both tell the story and heighten drama. That one panel where I called you out with the construction? That was terrible, and you should be ashamed. From the way you described it, the doctorís elbow would probably be the focal point of the panel if the artist listened to you. And then looking at his assÖ If the artist hadnít looked at the entire script first, they wouldnít know NOT to show the doctor at the waist or below, and most of the panels didnít say anything about him being nude from the waist down. And how the patient didnít notice it is just beyond me. Bad planning and even worse execution on your part.
The pacing here is terrible, also. This is related to the padding. You need to learn what does and does not make drama within a comic book setting. I suggest going to the Bolts & Nuts on pacing, and follow whatís said there. I also suggest breaking down a few comics and figure out the pacing and drama within them. Y The Last Man is great at this. Itís rare when thereís a perfunctory page-turn within those pages.
The dialogue. I havenít run into such cringe-worthy dialogue in a while. It had a nice flow, but it was definitely enough to make me want to hurt myself for reading it. That doesnít bode well, Brian.
You have to work on your logic and your cheese. This wasnít like the script John Lees wrote where it was purposefully cheesy and I had to catch on to what he was doing in order to see that it was intentional. This was just bad, needing to be ripped out whole and redone from the ground up.
I suggest you treat this like a broth or a soup: let it cook down in order to bring out the robust flavors. Two pages, six panels each, cutting out the fluff. Yes, this is going to mess with your outline (if you wrote one). Sorry. Get more story to compensate for it. Iím not a fan of a two-page scene. I call them ďfast cuts.Ē I donít like Ďem. Especially when the issue first starts, you want to have a decent amount of pages in order to let the reader get into the story before having a mini-cliffhanger to have them come back to. You can then do a fast cut thatís very similar to an interlude, but use them sparingly. Like paprika, use them as a garnish.
Really, itís not as bad as Iím saying. Youíve got a decent grasp on format, no moving panels, and a clear sense of what you want. The only thing that happens now is that you need to learn to tell a compelling story within the medium. Iím serious. Go pick up On Directing Film by Mamet. www.abebooks.com should have copies left. It should help you think visually and with a minimum of fluff. Read it three times. Itís a short, interesting read. It wonít help you with the dialogue, though. Go to the B&N about Dialogue for help there.
And thatís about everything I have this week. See the list for whoís up next, and weíll meet back here in seven.
Hey Brian! First, well done on submitting - I know you talked about being nervous about doing it, but the very fact that you wrote something up to submit is a big step in the right direction.
I liked the idea behind this opening. If you took into account Steve's adjustments - the idea of the steady zoom out to reveal more and more of the horror of the scene - and you'd have had an attention-grabbing first page that set up some suspense and dread.
I think the big problem is that you linger with the scene too long. I know I'm apparently in disagreement with Steve here (and as such, I'm worried about what the response will be to the "fast cut" I open next week's script with! :eek but I think a little two page scene can be a really good way to open up a first issue. I kinda look at it like a tactical assault, in and out quickly and efficiently right away with a bit of bait on a hook to instantly grab your reader's attention. Then that gives you a little wiggle room to spend multiple pages on some character introduction and world-building. But I agree with Steve that this opening scene could definitely benefit from being a two-pager.
At a lean two pages, you'd be raising a lot of questions with this scene, doing more to set a mood than let the reader know too much. With the stilted back-and-forth discussion between Dr. Dolor and Evelyn that follows Dolor's initial monologue, you lose a lot of the mystery of your initial set-up, and I fear the characters outstay their welcome.
But issues with pacing and dialogue aside, you seem to have the basis of an interesting story here, and I think with some redrafting and tightening, and following Steve's advice, you will see some drastic improvement in this story.
Wow, THAT'S a lot of red!!! Thank you Steven for making me chuckle after a long day of work. It's painful but it became funny very quickly. Your comments are brutal and hysterical at the same time. I'm glad I got this out of the way. After reading it again, it IS craptacular dialogue and I have to rewrite it. Easy enough. I can very easily make that opening scene 2 pages. I will work on it. I sent that script to you about 5 weeks ago. It's amazing how much you can learn in 5 weeks. This did exactly what I hoped it would do. It showed me what needs attention. As for my name showing up every few lines...well, that's a matter of me not being very good yet with Microsoft Word. That will get better too. The dialogue all in italics? Just another oversight. Easily fixed. As far as splash pages...I'm just not gonna do them anymore. I don't have the talent yet to pull them off. So I just won't do it. One of the good things I can focus on is the fact I didn't see a lot of corrections on grammar, punctuation, or spelling. This either means it was good or Steven was so sick to his stomach that he gave up on those things. I'm also proud (very proud) of NO moving panels!!! I really focused on taking that mental snapshot and then descibing it as best as possible. As for the random changes in angle, that was me simply trying to show all four walls of the room. And the hairy ass? You're assuming ALL insane nazi doctors had them
In all seriousness, I want to thank you again. This is a fun and helpful column. Yes it stings a little but we're all big boys here. We take the advice given and we fix what needs fixing. I will definitely post again at some point and show you all my improvements. I have to bone up on pacing. These 4 pages that Steven posted were my first attempt EVER at any kind of creative writing. Scripting a comic book is hard. We pretty much all know this here. But I love the medium and will keep plugging away at it. Anyone reading this who hasn't sent anything in yet, I encourage you to do it! A lot of the other guys (and girls) will back me up on this. Steven is here to help and so are we. Steven, sorry about the vomit
Don't worry, Brian, we all love vomit here on Project Fanboy!
Nothing left to comment on, really. Guess that'll teach me to get here late.
So, Brian, I'll just say that, for someone's first attempt at creative writing ever, that wasn't so bad. And kudos for taking the flaying of your first script with a sense of humor. Good job on both counts.
I'm new to wandering around these columns, was just checking stuff out, and came to this thought from ol' pal, Steven.
Since this is from an older column, where folks have seemed to move on, I don't feel TOO bad about making a sharp left turn and offering a new thought: When writing description, contextual details may be more important than ancillary details.
For example, the doctor might be described as "52, medium build, wearing surgical scrubs, is prepped for surgery, with his head cover and mask obscuring everything about his face but the rectangle from which his eyes peer." (Awkwardly phrased on the fly, but this implicitly put the gloves and apron on him; an artist should be able to work with this because the operating theater context is clear.)
This isn't about right or wrong description-writing, it's about focusing on what's important.
I have a script style that's more sparse than our trees in winter. Here, I'm fully open to the artist's visual interpretation, as long as the sequentials deliver on the story that's unfolding.
I have another one that details specifics I think are important. This is closer to the style of writing in this script, where I describe stuff that I think is important.
I have a third one that I've been playing with this year, which is more conversational, more contextual, and more goal oriented.
I developed this last one when dealing with an editor who wasn't very good at communicating or giving reasons for her decisions; she just wanted what she wanted, didn't care if I had reasons for what I was doing, so I expanded my script style to INCLUDE the reasons for what I was doing...which has become an interesting way to write.
In this case, I might describe the doctor in this panel more like this: The middle-aged doctor's surgical scrubs hides his identity in the same way that a black hood hides the torturer, with only his passionless eyes revealed, but they, too, hide his purpose.
Now, there's not a lot of description here, but the tone and point is crystal clear.
Sometimes I'll go much further and less elegantly in my writing of these explanatory description panels.
Something like this: I want the reader to see this middle-aged doctor in his surgical scrubs as they would a passionless torturer, whom, at this point, is simply going about his business. The contrast here with his outburst that's coming later will make him seem even more evil upon the readers' rereading of the story.
This version is interesting because it allows me the opportunity to tell the artist and the editor HOW I want a panel to be perceived by the reader. There's lots of room for interpretation of detail, but NO room for missing the intent of the panel.
The downside, it doesn't tell the story dramatically; it tells how the story will be PERCEIVED dramatically. Where lines of communication are poor, it's an interesting way to go.
I spoke with a pretty well-known, frustrated artist yesterday. He's doing art for one of the majors, and is dealing with somebody I think is a TERRIBLE editor, terrible because he/she doesn't know how to allow a script to be interpreted.
The writer (also well-known) wrote a six-panel page with an impossible range of detail in all six panels. There was so much in there, the artist asked the editor if he could focus on what was dramatically important and fit in the background detail through out the page. It's the kind of solution a good editor SHOULD be able to respond to with: "Let me see some thumbnails/layouts." Instead, the editor said, "I want everything that's there." The problem here, to be clear, is that everything isn't as important as everything else, and the story will suffer because he/she didn't get the writer to be clear about what was and wasn't important in the script.
One of Alan Moore's superpowers is that he writes things that CAN be drawn; too many comics writers put in a lot of stuff, let the artists deal with it, then complain about what was left out or wrong, when the problem was really with their own script and the editor who wouldn't keep them honest.
Anyway, the contextual approach to writing might be good here.
Now, this discussion is purely a stylistic choice; there's no right for every writer; these are simply different options we have for how to approach each story.
The approach in this script is fine...but Steven's comments made me think that we don't discuss enough what differentiates too much description from a lot of important description.
Just my two cents in this first post.
Good advice, as ever Lee. Nice to see you here on PFB. You've helped me several times (both directly and indirectly) over at DW, and I thank you for it.
"Living Robert Venditti's Plan B!"
Here I was, looking to see if something else was updated, and here I have Lee making comments on one of my comments to a Brave One.
And, as always, he comes in like a lion, with food for thought.
Some people here want to sit at my feet and pick up everything I lay down. Well, folks, Lee is the guy whose feet I sit at, and pick up everything he lays down.
As always, Lee, thanks for stopping by, and also for giving us new things to think about when writing and editing scripts.